Back to Springfield Next Week. The Illinois General Assembly will convene for the second week of the 2024 Spring legislative session on February 7th. The House and Senate will prepare to receive Governor Pritzker’s proposed Fiscal Year 2025 State of Illinois budget, which will be presented to a joint session of the General Assembly on Wednesday, February 21.
Illinois State Police set to file rules governing firearm registration under the Protect Illinois Communities Act (PICA). The controversial new gun ban law covers a wide variety of firearms and ancillary items, including ammunition, owned within Illinois. Key elements of the new law requires every Illinoisan who owns any of these items to go to an Illinois State Police website and register these items, using the registrant’s legal name and address. The registration must include an affirmation affidavit statement that the firearm(s) or other items had been possessed in Illinois as of January 10, 2022, the effective date of the new law.
By mandating that a possessor of Illinois firearms must add an enumeration of individual weapons to his or her name and address, which is information already on file within the Illinois State Police databases as part of the Firearm Owners Identification Card (FOID) Act, the new PICA law has come to be seen by many firearm owners as a potential threat to overall gun ownership and gun possession in Illinois. The State Police submitted the text of their proposed rule this week to an Illinois General Assembly panel, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR). Led by Deputy House Republican Leader Ryan Spain, House Republicans offered a motion to block, or “prohibit,” the new rule from taking effect. However, unanimous Democrat opposition to the Republican move blocked the prohibition motion, clearing the way for the new rule to be filed and take legal effect.
Legal action continues against the Protect Illinois Communities Act, including efforts before the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the new Illinois law as a violation of the federal Second Amendment. Many Illinois gun owners have not filed registration papers for the firearms and ancillary items that they own or possess. Advocates for the new law are attempting to downplay the low registration numbers. The JCAR vote took place on Tuesday, January 16.
Illinois Secretary of State tells drivers ‘don’t come’ to DMV unless absolutely necessary. Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias is suggesting a New Year’s resolution for Illinois motorists: Ditch the DMV.
The Secretary of State announces last week the expanded online services for the “Skip the Line, Do It Online” program to save taxpayers’ time and reduce historically long queues at driver and motor vehicles services facilities, which Giannoulias shortens to “DMV.” If not via the web, mail and telephone transactions are available.
So, Giannoulias urged, just stay away.
“I’m serious. Don’t come unless you are 100% certain that you need to visit one of our facilities,” Giannoulias said at a Chicago news conference. “The reason is obvious. Most people do not need to go to a DMV facility to get what they need.”
The expansion includes varied services. A website portal now helps customers determine the exact service they need and necessary subsequent steps. When a visit is necessary, appointments can be made online. Now, text messages will follow to remind them and ask them to confirm or cancel. Two separate telephone lines now cater solely to seniors and teens and their questions.
Since the program launched in September, the secretary of state has taken care of 800,000 motorists by appointment, resulting in little to no wait time, according to Giannoulias. Of 2.25 million drivers needing to renew licenses this year, 1 million can do it online, through the mail or by phone, and the same is true for 10 million vehicle registration renewals.
House Republicans Renew Call for Ethics Reform. As the tangled web of Democrats’ corruption continues to unwind over and over in federal court, Illinois House Republicans have renewed calls for needed ethics reforms. The list of convictions continues to pile up, and the silence from the Democrat side of the aisle is deafening.
In 2023 alone, federal prosecutors in Chicago have secured the following convictions:
- Four former Commonwealth Edison employees were convicted on charges of conspiring to bribe former House Speaker Mike Madigan to guide and pass ComEd’s legislative agenda.
- Former Madigan Chief of Staff Tim Mapes was convicted of lying to a grand jury in an effort to undermine the bribery investigation into the former Speaker.
- Chicago businessman James T. Weiss was convicted and sentenced to five-plus years in prison for bribing two Democratic state lawmakers, wire and mail fraud, and lying to the FBI.
- And just days before Christmas, former Chicago Democratic Alderman Edward Burke, a member of the City Council for 54 years, was convicted of racketeering, bribery, and attempted extortion after an historic corruption trial that was over five years in the making.
In addition, Madigan, the longest serving state House speaker in modern U.S. history, was indicted on federal racketeering and bribery charges in March 2022. He was set to stand trial in federal court in April 2024, but the trial has been pushed back to October 8, 2024.
“Illinois has weak ethics laws and House Republicans have been pushing for significant reforms for years,” stated House Minority Leader Tony McCombie. “Democrats’ complacency with the status quo continues to cheat and take advantage of Illinois families by the very government who says it is there to protect them. House Republicans have filed common sense proposals and are more than willing to have bipartisan discussions to close loopholes and enhance penalties for those who violate the public’s trust.”
Illinois House Republicans are taking action to address corruption and create stronger ethics reforms. Ethics proposals filed by Republicans include:
- House Bill 4119– Prohibits elected officials from using political campaign donations to pay for criminal defense.
- House Bill 1277– Benefit or annuity payments to a member or participant in a retirement system or pension fund shall be suspended if the member or participant is charged with a felony.
- House Bill 4286– Provides for a three-year revolving door ban on lobbying.
- House Bill 4288– Requires the Executive and Legislative Ethics Commissions to make reports available within 60 days of receipt.
- House Bill 4289– Amends the Lobbyist Registration Act to expand the definition of “officials” to include more positions at the local level and expands the definition of “lobbying.”
Read more about House Republican efforts to combat corruption and reform ethics laws here.
Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) adopts literacy plan advanced by the General Assembly. For decades, educators have debated the relative merits of whole-language instruction, and phonics-based instruction, as pathways to reading skill. Massive data sets show that some young children are reading-challenged. Despite various forms of enhanced instruction offered to children in these categories, and inspiring stories from some individual children, as a group many of these students continue to face challenges as they progress through educational grades. These challenges are tracked by the reading proficiency scores generated by standardized tests that are administered to almost all Illinois students. In response to lagging Illinois reading proficiency scores, House Republican Leader Tony McCombie formed the House Republican Literacy Working Group in 2023. The Working Group focused on overall General Assembly work on legislation aimed at improving the reading ability of Illinois children.
In the 2023 spring session, the General Assembly urged educators to move towards evidence-based reading standards. SB 2243, which received bipartisan support in the Illinois House, mandates the State Board to adopt guidelines, for evaluation and adoption by local school districts, of evidence-based core reading instruction programs. The new literacy law includes language that urges a focus on at-risk children who are sometimes left behind by current courses of instruction (including whole-language-based and compromise-based courses of instruction). The goal of this focus is to move closer to comprehensive Illinois literacy.
This week, the State Board adopted a comprehensive 190-page literacy plan to move Illinois school districts toward evidence-based reading instruction. News coverage of evidence-based reading instruction indicates that many such curricula are phonics-oriented, without being dogmatically phonics-exclusive. Although this plan adoption is a response to the General Assembly’s request, ISBE did not pass this request on to local school districts as a rigid mandate. Local school districts are expected to enjoy a certain level of choice between curricular modules.
Chicago plans to stop building migrant shelter space. As part of its overall drive against city of Chicago homelessness, in 2023 under Mayor Brandon Johnson the city had said it hoped to build housing spaces for all comers, including migrants. After thousands of migrants showed up in the middle and later months of 2023 – they are primarily persons who claim to be ‘refugees’ awaiting adjudication – the city fell back on a plan to erect “industrial tents.” On Monday, January 22, a spokesperson for the city told a reporter that the tents would no longer go up. The city’s residual efforts to find marginal new spaces for the net new inflow will, as of January 2024, be confined to working with the private sector and seeking owners willing to volunteer private spaces for the purpose. The city stated that it plans to continue working with migrants who had come to Chicago prior to January.
The news from Chicago created dismay in the office of Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who worried that unhoused immigrants would become homeless in Illinois’ cold winter. In a statement published on Tuesday, January 23, a city of Chicago spokesman stated that if it is the desire of Illinois to continue to be a sanctuary state for asylum seekers, the state government should pay for the services required by migrants.
The year-end Illinois unemployment rate rose to 4.8% in December 2023. The 4.8% jobless rate posted by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) in December 2023 was 0.1% higher than the 4.7% rate posted in November. Illinois’ December unemployment rate was 110 basis points higher than the 3.7% national unemployment rate for the same month, and was also higher than the jobless rates posted by our surrounding states. For example, neighboring states posted December 2023 unemployment rates of 3.6% (Indiana), 3.2% (Iowa), 3.3% (Missouri), and 3.3% (Wisconsin).
IDES stated that Illinois continued to slowly create net new jobs in December 2023. Nonfarm payrolls were up by 57,800 jobs from the comparable year-earlier month, and were up 1,200 jobs from the prior month of November. However, these overall positive numbers had to fight strong headwinds in specific sectors of Illinois’ economy that are showing weakness. Hard-hit by continuing changes in the retail economy was the largest single Illinois jobs sector, “Trade, Transportation and Utilities,” which yielded 4,900 jobs in December 2023. Major changes in the way we buy Christmas-related goods and services mean that fewer Illinoisans are getting jobs in “brick and mortar” stores. Approximately 310,200 Illinois residents were counted as “unemployed,” which means they were jobless and actively looking for a job in December 2023.
In a supplemental announcement, IDES reported on December 2023 Illinois jobs and unemployment by metropolitan area. The Illinois metro rate tabulations show a continued widening of the gap between Illinois cities and local areas that are traditionally oriented towards manufacturing and heavy industry, and metro areas such as Bloomington-Normal and Springfield that are more oriented towards finance and services. Comparatively high local unemployment rates for December 2023 were posted in metro Danville (5.4%), Decatur (5.7%), Kankakee (5.9%), and Rockford (5.9%).
Major festivals set for February 2024. Many communities will be hosting Groundhog Day events, Winter Carnivals, and other celebrations in February. One in the 89th District is the Winter Carnival in Galena, Feb 16-19. Recent years have seen a significant increase in populations of Illinois winter bald eagles, and the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge near Marion, Illinois will be one of the locations hosting birdwatching tours to see and honor America’s national bird. The Illinois Municipal League (IML), a nonpartisan organization that represents many of Illinois’ local governments, is one of the entities that posts an online calendar of Illinois events by month.
IS IT JUST A BILL?
Bills filed in the House. As we go through the session, I am going to give some updates on bills that are a bit out of this world.
- SB2627 – Representative Anna Stava-Murray will carry the bill in the house. An initiative of Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, the “Illinois Food Safety Act” would ban the use of brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propylparaben, Red Dye No. 3 and titanium dioxide in foods sold in the state. Not everyone is on board with the Illinois Food Safety Act. Illinois Manufacturers Association President and CEO Mark Denzler released a statement Tuesday: “Manufacturers oppose this well-intentioned legislation as it would set a dangerous precedent by usurping the role of scientists and experts at the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, which reviews and approves food additives to ensure they are safe,” he said. “This measure would create a confusing and costly patchwork of regulations for food manufacturing, which is the single largest segment of Illinois’ manufacturing economy, generating more than $135 billion in economic impact each year.” The National Confectioners Association’s Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications, Christopher Gindlesperger, also released a statement opposing the legislation. “This bill would replace a uniform national food safety system with a patchwork of inconsistent state requirements created by legislative fiat that will increase food costs, undermine consumer confidence, and create confusion around food safety. We should be relying on the scientific rigor of the FDA in terms of evaluating the safety of food ingredients and additives.”
- HB4603 – Representative Justice Slaughter (27th), chair of the state House Judiciary-Criminal Committee, introduced the bill on Monday. He wants to ban law enforcement from enforcing traffic laws, including most speeding and expired plates. In addition, Rep Slaughter wants to prevent officers from pulling people over for:
- failing to display license plates or stickers
- operating with an expired registration sticker
- not wearing a seat belt
- improper lane usage that does not meet the criminal threshold
- failing to comply with “certain requirements concerning vehicle lamps”
- excessive window tints
- defective mirrors
- obstructed windshields or defective windshield wipers
- defective bumpers
- excessive exhaust
Valentines for Veterans
This Valentine’s Day, I am hosting a program to show some love to our veterans. I encourage community members, church groups, schools, and residents to participate in the Card Drive by dropping off Valentine’s Day cards or mailing them to my district office in Savanna. Once the cards are collected, they will be delivered to veterans in communities in Northwest Illinois.
Valentine’s Day cards will be accepted through Wednesday, February 7. Participants may deliver or mail cards to State Representative Tony McCombie, 9317B IL Rt 84, Savanna, IL 61074.
I will be holding office hours in Stockton and Galena! I encourage you to stop by if you need assistance with state agencies or any additional help from my office:
- Feb 14th – Stockton 11:30am-12:30pm at the Stockton Library
- Feb 14th — Galena 3:00-4:00pm at Galena City Hall
Let’s work together to help fight the ongoing blood shortage in our state! I am hosting a blood drive to help boost supply, and I hope to see you there: